Picture: The local market in Port Vila, Vanuatu
We didn't see much of Port Vila, Vanuatu. In fact, we checked out of the country with customs in the same meeting that we cleared in! Although we should have left immediately, we stayed a few days under the radar and went grocery shopping, caught up on internet (I joined Facebook!), had a few dinners out and worked on our boats (generator maintenance again!). But we were really just waiting for a good weather window to head west as we are now officially late for our planned arrival into Australia. With the cyclone season coming we need to think about getting over there. And to be honest, we're both ready for a good dose of the modern world.
During our passage we will not have internet so I have put a few random pictures and video into the queue to keep you entertained. But if you do want to get a day-by-day update of our conditions out at sea you can click on the below link to hear from our buddy boat, La Palapa. Roger and Tobe have become great friends of ours and since they can update their blog out at sea you might want to check in with them. Their address is as follows:
Okay, wish us luck. It's two days to New Caledonia where we hope to stop for a night or two, then another two to Chesterfield Reef, and then the final three or four days to Bundenburg, Australia. Finally arriving in true civilization! We can't wait!!!
Picture: Car sized chunks of molten lava shooting into the air. Is this safe? It's certainly fun!
I guess I didn't know what to expect when we reached the rim of the volcano, but this certainly exceeded any expectations. The word "active" is not the best descriptor. Maybe something more like "exploding" or "blasting" or just plain "erupting" would be a better word choice. One thing is for certain; the volcano on Tanna Island in southern Vanuatu is simply amazing.
As you approach, it seems innocuous enough. Nothing much is going on and you can't quite see down into the crater as the sulfur and steam cloud your vision. You start to get disappointed that the $30 US park fee might have been too much, but then it erupts... A huge cloud of dark smoke billows out of the crater followed by a hissing and exploding sound that forces all eyes to its source. And then you look UP and see the car-sized chunks of lava still rising into the air.
Yes, I said "up." The lava was actually going higher than our heads, and almost over them. In the litigious modern world, something like this would NEVER be allowed. But in Vanuatu, anything goes. It had apparently been a few years since any tourists had died from falling lava, so we felt fairly comfortable, but upon seeing this thing explode one could not help themselves reconsider. Dying this way would surely put you on the top of the annual "Darwin Awards" email chain. And as the lava returned to earth, landing only 50 meters from the crater rim we pulled out our cameras and waited for it to get dark. The shots of this at night would be better than any firework show we had ever seen.
So as you can tell, we survived, and it probably wasn't as dangerous as I am making it out to be. But one thing is for sure, we're never going to get this close to an "active" volcano ever again...
Picture: E and her Mom smiling for a picture in Fiji.
Living in the United States, I was fastidious about my hair care. I went to the hair salon dutifully every 6 weeks for highlights, lowlights and a trim. I truly enjoyed my three- hour appointments and did not mind the high cost. After all, a girl wears her hair every single day, it is very important. In preparation for our year at sea, I did not think too much about how I was going to manage my hair program. I am not really one to worry in advance but it has proven to be quite an adventure!
I had my hair done in San Francisco in October right before we left on the rally and I was able to stretch that out until January. Seemed like a long time then but the worst was yet to come, I had it done in Antigua (Caribbean Island) at a place called the Tree House by a woman from Ghana. The salon was actually outside under a large tree, very different but very cool. I was nervous and wondered how much experience this black woman had with highlighting when she showed me a large color board with hair samples attached to each color. I was to pick my own shade, very different. In the end, she did a great job and I was very happy.
By the time we arrived in the Galapagos at the end of March, I was in desperate need again. The Galapagos may be known for many things, but a great hair-salon is not one of them. There were many expats living on the islands and I asked a blonde woman who ran her own boutique where to go. With her advice in hand, I felt confident, until I met the stylist who only spoke Spanish. I recruited Eben to help and between him and pointing to pictures in the dated magazines in the salon, we were able to communicate enough to get the job done. Again, I was not sure how it would turn out until it dried and again I was happy.
In May I was able to travel to Los Angles for a short visit. I landed from my overnight flight and hit the ground running, a hair appointment was scheduled for that afternoon. I felt like myself again before reuniting with my girlfriends. But once I returned to the boat, we had lots of ground to cover and through some very remote islands. I did not have another opportunity to get my hair done for a record 5 months!! That is right, girls! I must be very lucky that at forty, I only have a handful of grey hairs that I can pluck with tweezers but the two tone "zebra" look of extremely light blonde hair on the bottom and much darker hair on the top was becoming too much to bare. As well, the length was truly dragging me down. After months at sea in the salt water, sand and sun my hair was done. I wanted nothing more than to cut it off and I did at the first chance I got.
Once I knew we would be in Denarau, Fiji with modern resorts, I immediately found one with a hair salon, The Sofitel, and made an appointment. This time I had real confidence: even though the person who did my hair was a man dressed as a woman (very common in the South Pacific) and even though she was Fijian (not American or European). I was bold, asking her to cut off almost 8 inches of hair and to highlight and lowlight what was left. I left with a fresh new look and was very happy!
After all of this, you may ask (as my husband certainly has) if I will change my ways upon my return to San Francisco? Is there truly a need to have one's hair done every six weeks at an expensive salon in Union Square? Hasn't it been proven that less can be more? That hair dressers without the best training, potions and equipment can do almost as good a job for a fraction of the price? The answer is of course: I can't wait to see my hair dresser Philip as soon as I return to San Francisco and every six weeks post!
Video: We're still catching up on videos! Today it's a summary of our time cruising the Fiji Isles. After a two day sail from Tonga we stopped in the Lou Group of islands to take a rest and see these incredible islands. After that we met back up with our cruising buddies on La Palapa and toured the north part of the main island before picking up our parents to see the Yasawa Group on the far western side. In all, we spent 3 weeks in Fiji and felt we could have used 3 months instead, but we loved it. Enjoy and stay tuned for more!
Picture: The "rents" on Waya Island with Honeymoon in the background. (From left to right: Joan Moore, Toby and Joanne Hynes.)
We had an absolutely amazing week with our parents on-board. The sun was out every moment of every day as we slowly island hopped up the western coast of Fiji...
We met our parents at the Denerau Marina (and its Hard Rock Café!) and sailed across "Bligh Water" to "Musket Cove" where the American Captain Wilkes once ordered a massacre of the local Fijians out of fear of cannibalism. Thankfully, 170 years has erased any memory of that incident and we were welcomed with open arms to a nice resort for dinner. However, I did wonder what Captains Bligh and Wilkes would think of us now on our little catamaran, cruising the islands with GPS versions of the charts they helped create. Things have certainly changed...
The next morning we were studiously glued to the internet trying to determine if we would be affected by the Tsunami before finally deciding to leave for Mana island. Elizabeth cooked up a feast and we started our weeklong dominoes tournament (a Hynes family tradition that Joan Moore nearly won!).
Before long we were off for Waya and were soon visited by four bottlenose dolphins that frolicked and performed tricks for us as we made a detour to the beautiful and uninhabited island harbor off Vanua Levu. This was a gorgeous anchorage, although the swell made a beach landing impossible. Waya was by far the tallest of the islands we visited and after obtaining permission to pass through the local village from their chief, we hiked to the top of the ridge for a fantastic view of the anchorage below us.
To wrap things up we searched for Manta Rays on Drawaqa Island before heading back to Waya for a final evening at the Octopus Resort. Anchoring that night proved a bit dramatic as the winds shifted at sunset, causing a mad scramble to another bay in the moonlight. Although we ended up anchoring in a perfect spot, getting through the reef in the darkness was an experience this captain would like to soon forget. But we ended on a high note with a dry dingy landing, a BBQ dinner, more dominoes and bottles of New Zealand wine...
It was a week filled with relaxation, tsunamis, dominos, dangerous reefs, dolphins, inaccurate charts, and sun. A true Fijian experience that will be hard to beat!